Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
Howard Pierce Ceramics
Living among the creatures he portrayed in his work, Howard Pierce exemplified the California artist mystique. His originality of style, designs, and glazes made Howard a nationally known ceramicist. His main medium was porcelain (clay, single firing), although he also worked in concrete, plastic, plaster, brass, pewter, drawings, and anything else he found around the house. Art was his life.
Howard Pierce was the founder and artistic creator of a unique Southern California ceramics studio. His studio overlooked the town of Joshua Tree, California where Howard produced original designs that became his trademark for over 45 years.
Born in 1912 in Chicago, Howard began his artistic training at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois. He moved to Claremont, California in 1934, where he continued his education at Pomona College. He began producing ceramics in the late 1940s. He moved to Joshua Tree in 1968 to continue ceramic design and production. Many of Howard's pieces are now collectors' items and Howard is prominent in many books on American Ceramics.
Howard personally handled all aspects of the ceramics—from original sculpture modeling, making of the molds, formulating the clay body and glazes, to the production and firing of the pieces. Each piece an original, handcrafted American product. Howard continued to focus on porcelain, a high quality ceramic process which includes a single firing at 2150°F.
In 1968 Howard began creating a few larger concrete statues for permanent installations. Many of these creations surrounded his Joshua Tree home and others are located at public sites through out the high desert. Up to 12 feet high, these pieces hold prominent places in the community. Examples of his large sculptures can be seen in Yucca Valley outside the Hi-Desert Nature Museum and the Library, in Joshua Tree at Copper Mountain College, the Hi-Desert Playhouse, and the Hi-Desert Hospital, and in 29 Palms at the Eagles club. Howard also re-constructed the "Myrtle The Turtle" sculpture that can be seen in the center of Joshua Tree on the highway.
By 1992 the then partially retired, Howard Pierce was still creating new designs. These figurines were available at his studio and selected businesses in the High Desert. He creating his unique works until his death in 1994.
The Howard Pierce name stamped is often stamped on the bottom in ink. Some pieces that simply have inmold stamps of "Pierce" as well. Sometimes on earlier pieces you'll see "Claremont, Calif" added. Additionally, the word "Porcelain" sometimes appears in conjunction with his name.
One of the most important things for the Pierce collector to remember is that for animal sets that have multiple figures NOT ALL figurines may be marked! For instance, for some sets ONLY the larger one is marked. This isn't a problem if you find them as a set. But if you come across only the unmarked piece then you'll have to recognize it, or just take a chance. We say take a chance, because there are quite a few Pierce knock-off import pieces being made that have a glaze that looks awfully similar to the real deal.
Additional information and photos can be found at the Howard Pierce Ceramics website.
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